Tag Archives: school

Girls Behaving Badly


Watched Brave with the kids Saturday night.  It’s a Disney/Pixar offering about a young Scottish princess named Merida (mair-eh-duh), who, though intelligent, independent, headstrong and an accomplished archer, is still expected to be married off to the first-born son of one of the other clans of the kingdom, in accordance with tradition.

Merida doesn’t take kindly to this, and though her father admires her conviction, he still sides with Merida’s mother, the Queen, who is determined to mold her daughter into a ‘proper’ princess and see the marriage carried out.  In defiance, Merida seeks out the assistance of a local witch, who gives her a potion she assures will change Merida’s fate.  And change it, it does, though of course not in any way foreseen.

What struck me as bloody wonderful about this film was that Merida, though learning important life lessons throughout, never undergoes the distasteful transformation that is the fate of so many female characters (Disney and otherwise), which is to say, she isn’t forced to compromise her true self to attain her goals.

Watching, I couldn’t help but regard my daughter.  She overflows with a joyful glee, she dances with abandon, is extremely artistic and intelligent, a voracious reader, and possesses an uncanny ability to take a concept and transform it into a joke, or a song, or some keen witticism.  She never fails to amaze me.

That said, I’ve noticed that her particular brand of precociousness sometimes comes with a price, that emotional development does not necessarily grow at the same rate as intelligence.  My girl is the most willful little person I can ever hope to meet, and as an adversary, she packs way more punch than any adult I’ve encountered.  She rages injustices, both real and imagined.  She cries.  She yells.  She screams, occasionally.  She stomps her little feet, and she slams doors (she reminds me of me, truth be told).  And though I’ve had the occasional experience of going head to head with her, these behaviours become far more evident at school.

I suppose it stands to reason.  At our school, it’s become apparent that her kind of ‘different‘ is not equated with ‘unique’ or ‘special,’ so much as ‘troublesome’ and ‘disruptive.’  And when a child spends six hours a day, five days a week in an environment that makes it abundantly clear they do not fit somehow, conflict is bound to occur.  Though my daughter is a solid A-student, I’ve still spent three years combating those who insist that my girl needs a label (they like to imply ODD.  I say she doesn’t suffer fools well). What she needs, truly, are educators who are capable and willing to look beyond the conventional rule books and tweak their approach.  I’m not inferring the system needs to be overhauled (which is how the admin hears it), I’m talking about accepting that not all children learn in the same way, a concept established decades ago.  Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”  And Einstein posited that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  I have quoted these to school administration more than once.  And while by the end of Brave, Merida and her mother realize how change is intrinsically linked to growth, our school is evidently still sussing that one out.  Happily, with some additional resources now in place, and a little girl maturing by the minute, I have high hopes for next year.

Through this process, I have learned that in order for my daughter to become her true self, I must not only guide her, but shield her from those who would insist she become a ‘proper’ princess.  I myself have to ensure that I avoid becoming too Queen-y.  I know that at times I have attempted to quell my little tempest, to rein her in, tell her too often to act a certain way, speak in a certain way, dress in a certain way.  I am still learning about what it means to truly parent, ever seeking a balance of guidance and freedom.

Ultimately, I want to instill in my daughter the idea that anything is possible, that her kind of ‘different‘ is to be celebrated.
That her fate lies in her own hands.

Our fate lives in us. You only have to be brave enough to see it.



Filed under Film, Rants, The Mama Goddess

You’re Supposed To Sing (Or Dance)


I’ve been doing a fair bit of pondering on this remarkably journey we’re all taking.  Each person doing exactly the same thing – living – while at the same time, each doing it in a totally unique way.

In the Western world, there appears to be a set pattern for at least the first 17 years, and that’s school.  Lots of it.  Pre-school, kindergarten, elementary school, sometimes a middle school for the 6th to 8th grades, then high school.  Afterward, many of us go on to university and post-graduate work.  Then the jobs, or, for  some, the careers.

That’s all well and good; I know several people who traversed the system relatively unscathed and are currently living fulfilling and happy lives.

However, looking back, if I were to speak solely to my own experiences, I’d posit that the established ‘system’ didn’t particularly work for me.

In elementary school, I was a shining star.  I was polite and well turned-out, I knew my lessons, had many friends, was active and happy.  I loved to be  quizzed on what I knew, be that math, spelling, geography, or what-have-you.  I drew and wrote constantly. I was going to be a writer, an artist, get married at 24 and have two, perfect children (the paper fortune teller confirmed this).  The world was full of promise.


In grade six, I moved to Toronto for the school year.  Scared the shit out of me, that did.  I continued to write, though; it had become a refuge.  The city was unfamiliar, grey, loud and dirty and the kids didn’t like me all that much (except for Max H. and Connie C., without whom I’d never survived, who took me in and introduced me to good music and community).   Grade seven brought me back to Burlington, but by then, all of my friends had formed new groups and I spent the next two years feeling like an interloper.  I had great hopes for high school, starting fresh.

Ah, yes…high school.  While I can’t honestly say it was a torture, I don’t look back on it particularly fondly.  I had already begun to lose my way, getting in trouble fairly frequently, my grades suffering, my relationships beginning to appear more than moderately unhealthy. I was intelligent, but bored and unchallenged, and that made my way treacherous. My writing trailed off around then.  Yet throughout those years, I’d always maintained this niggling suspicion in the back of my mind that I was destined for better things…and when It came along,  I’d know It when I saw It.

Cut to 25+ years later…I’ve been out in the world, I’ve worked, I’ve seen a whole bunch of neat stuff, done a whole bunch of cool things, married, had children.  And yet that Itch For The It remains, and I believe much of that is due to a lifelong inkling that I’m the idiomatic square peg attempting to conform to the round hole (at least when it comes to the traditional way of doing things).

I now have a daughter who is a bit of a square peg, herself.  I thought of her as I listened to this talk Music And Life by Alan Watts, and realized that her journey is really just starting out, and the paths and possibilities are endless.  I have resolved to become far more diligent in reminding her that this journey, this pilgrimage, is a musical thing, and that you’re supposed to sing, or dance your way through it.

In doing so, I hope to remind myself, and perhaps move ever closer to that elusive It.

For more information about the wonderful Alan Watts, please go here.


Filed under Health and Wellness, Wanderings

Bully For You!

FarkusCry, cry for me crybaby! Cry!

BULLY (n.)
1530s, originally “sweetheart,” applied to either sex, from Dutch ‘boel,’ “lover; brother,” probably a diminutive of Middle Dutch ‘broeder’ meaning “brother.”

We’ve come a long way, baby.  Just not in the right direction.

This weekend, my daughter was the victim of bullying.  I’m not talking about your garden-variety meanness here; the kid in question called her a fucking bitch, fuck face, told her she was a ‘ho,‘ proceeded to hit her with a stick and then pushed her into a tree.  This all happened at the end of my street.

He’s eight years old.  And in her class at school.

I have mixed feelings about the situation.  I have a very headstrong daughter, and when he continued to call her names, she continually went back to tell him to stop, though the older girls she was with asked her repeatedly to just come along with them.  I spoke to my girl about this, and told her that her friends had been correct; they should have either come straight to me at the onset or found another known adult to help them.  As it turns out, another parent who lives closer to the end of the crescent had heard the commotion and went out to investigate.  Witnessing the abuse, she approached the group of boys and berated them for their behaviour.  Emma’s attacker ran off, but the others stayed.  One of the boys, frightened by this unknown adult, called his parents, who arrived within a few minutes.

The three girls ran back to my house to tell me what had happened.  I immediately took them back to the park and had them play on the climber while I went over to find out what I could.  By the time I arrived, however, three parents from my street were standing in the park facing off with the one child’s parents. I approached the group, and after a few minutes of listening to the adults shout at each other, I interrupted and said to the mother, “Hello.  My name is Erin.  I’m the mother of the girl who was bullied here today, and I’m hoping we can talk.” At which point I reached out my hand to shake hers.

I got this:


Not gonna happen.


She was really on a tear, and extraordinarily defensive.  I understand that no parent wants to hear that their child might not be the angel they believe them to be, however even after listening to the adult and several kids who had witnessed it, she steadfastly refused to believe her child had been involved.  I told her, calmly, that I had three girls who backed up each others’ accounts, to which she responded, “So where is the girl?  Where is the girl this happened to?  Is she here?”  I replied that yes, my daughter was present, however there were a few things I wanted to clarify as adults beforehand, and I had instructed her to play on the climber.  I said, “You have to understand that my eight-year-old is distressed right now, and it would upset her if she were to be asked to come and speak to an angry adult she doesn’t know.”  To which she responded, “Why do you make it sound like her age is important?  My son is eight, too, so what? I keep hearing these stories from everyone else.  I want to talk to her, now!”

Ahem.  Let me pause, here.  My policy when in the midst of an emotional power keg is to transform into a Zen Master.  I speak calmly, quietly and unexcitedly.  I smile sincerely.  I employ body language that allows the other person to understand I’m truly listening to them.  However, at this point, when the woman repeatedly referred to my recently-traumatized daughter as ‘she’ and ‘her’ and ‘the girl,’ and for some reason believed I would actually make my kid face off with a raving, batshit-crazy adult, I realized I wasn’t in the least interested in continuing the conversation.  Fortuitously, she was distracted by a baited comment from someone else, and I moved away.



Over the next few minutes I spoke to the remaining kids and got their side of the story.  They admitted there was bad language, though they weren’t in agreement as to whether or not my daughter was hit with a stick.  They asserted my daughter continually went back and engaged the boy, until she was called away by her older playmates.

This morning before school began, I had a meeting with the school principal to apprise him of the situation.  He agreed that he would speak to the teacher, and ensure that at no time of day would my daughter and the boy be left alone without adult supervision.  He will be speaking to one of the girls my daughter was with, who, as a school lunch monitor, has apparently witnessed the boy bullying Em and others in the past.  He will get the names of the other boys who were present.  He will take the boy to a different classroom for lunchtimes (when no teacher is present).  He will be calling the boy’s parents.  All these things I agree with, but I have to say I’m still concerned with potential run-ins on the playground and in our neighborhood.  What to do other than reiterate to my girl that in the event she cannot avoid this boy and he bullies her again, she needs to either a) walk away, b) run away c) run away and get an adult, pronto?

I have this inkling that 30+ years ago, this would have been handled differently.  I’m quite sure the school wouldn’t have become involved, and that I’d be speaking directly to the boy’s parents.  Thing is, in this world of BureaucracySpeak, I find myself out of my element, because my common sense reaction is no longer necessarily the most efficacious route to resolution.

What would YOU do?



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Filed under Health and Wellness, Nostalgia, Rants, The Mama Goddess, Uncategorized